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Jen Butler: The Top 5 Workplace Stress Triggers

Stress Management & Business Consultant Jen Butler says decreasing workplace stress and increasing productivity is as simple as making sure you have a plan to help employees manage the top five workplace stress triggers.


1. Inadequate Staff 

The first of the top stress triggers is an increase workload due to staff cutbacks or the inability to afford additional staff members.  The tendency is to pile more work on employees without giving them additional compensation "or sometimes even just verbal recognition," says Butler. According to Butler, dispersing work to current employees and not recognizing and compensating them for it is the number one stress trigger of the American workforce today

2. Personality Conflicts, Miscommunication and Favoritism

The second trigger is personality conflicts, miscommunication, and favoritism leading to perceived unfair treatment. "Companies easily put together a marketing strategy, a business strategy, a growth strategy," says Butler, "but rarely do companies have a true people strategy." By this she means a system that invests in training and recognizing employees.

According to Butler, your employees will benefit from training that helps them appreciate personality differences and avoid miscommunication. Work with managers to learn what favoritism "looks like" and "sounds like" in the workforce. Work with managers and their employees to alleviate bullying, because about 82% of the American workforce says they experience bullying in their place of employment.

3. Work / Life Balance

"There's no way to establish a true work / life balance," says Butler. "How do you take work out of life and take life out of work? What we can work towards is work / life integration."

According to Butler, if you are not supposed to think about your home life while you are at work, that creates stress.  For example, if you look at your phone for a brief moment just to make sure that there have been no emergency texts from family members, other staff members may feel justified in thinking your are not working. Setting reasonable expectations and then permitting employees to police themselves is healthier.

4. Fear of Being Laid Off

"Some of your employees can't afford to lose their job. They need that paycheck," says Butler. "They care about this so much that they work at optimum levels all day long from the time they walk in the door until the time they leave. They are just rushing, running, rushing, running, and just never sitting down." The result is they burn themselves out.  "Imagine if you had a race horse and  a jockey was constantly kicking and forcing this racehorse to run at full speed for 8 to 10 hours a day. How much work and productivity could you get out of that resource? It would be short-lived. That's what is going on with your employees when they are so afraid of losing their jobs, that they work at those optimum levels at all times."

5. Unrealistic Demands

The last of the top five stress triggers is unrealistic demands from management and leadership for employees to perform outside of their talents and skill sets. "This is what happens," says Butler, "You have someone you hire for a particular job description and duties, and then because that person is so good at what they do, all of a sudden they get promoted or they get assigned new tasks and duties. But those tasks and duties are not part of their skill sets or natural born talents." When they under perform in their current role, stress increases all around, and they are let go.

Create a Plan to Help Employees 

Based on your own practice situation, work with managers and leaders in your practice to alleviate stress triggers through recognition, realistic assignment of duties, training to avoid perceptions of favoritism and to improve communication, and after setting expectations, permit employees to police their own actions.

Butler says, "Once we allow our employees to experience less stress, they are free to work as hard or as long as they want, because that's fueling their passion. It's fueling what they want to do instead of weighing them down with the pressures of stress."

About this Industry Leader:

Minal Sampat, BA, RDH - Profile Pic

Jen Butler, M.Ed, BCC

Stress Management and Business Consultant, JB Partners Inc.

Jen Butler is the founder and CEO of JB Partners, a SMaRT (Stress Management and Resiliency Training) firm dedicated to the success of leaders and teams and the long-term sustainable profitability of businesses. Building on her MEd in educational psychology and 25+ years of experience, Jen is a Certified Coach (Center for Credentialing and Education; and International Coach Federation), a Certified Book Yourself Solid (TM) Consultant (Michael Port), a Kolbe System Certified Consultant, and a Nationally Trained and Certified Presenter, who is also IAS Certified. As a dental consultant and then dental executive coach, she has worked with dental professionals to reduce stress, identify areas of opportunity, set actionable goals and enjoy more fulfillment. She travels throughout the United States to provide leaders, teams, and businesses with one-on-one onsite guidance in managing stress, turning around their business, and achieving real, long-lasting results.

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